The authorities in China are set to release a man who was identified as Fang Bin, who disappeared around three years ago after posting videos of overcrowded hospitals and bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic, reported a relative of the man.
Fang Bin and several other members of the public who were said to be citizen journalists during early 2020 posted details of the pandemic on the internet and social media and embarrassed Chinese officials who encountered criticism for failing to control the pandemic.
Fang is a seller of traditional Chinese clothing, and the last video he posted on Twitter was of a piece of paper on which it was written, ‘All citizens resist, hand power back to the people’.
This man’s case is part of Beijing’s crackdown on criticism of China’s early management of the pandemic as the ruling Communist Party strives to control the country’s narrative.
Bin was scheduled to be released on Sunday, as per two individuals who did not want to be identified because of fear of government retribution. One of them stated that Fang was sentenced to 3 years in jail for provoking trouble and picking quarrels, a vague charge used traditionally against political dissidents.
His release has not been yet confirmed, and two officers of the public security bureau of Wuhan didn’t give the phone number of their information office or respond to any questions.
In early 2020, the initial outbreak of COVID-19 devastated Wuhan City, which is home to 11 million people, in central China’s Hubei province. In a 76-day lockdown, its streets were deserted, other than security personnel or ambulances, for several months.
During that time, some citizen journalists attempted to tell their stories, and others used social media to defy the Communist Party’s tightly policed information or monopoly. They were small in number, but their impact was high, so they got in trouble. Fang and another citizen journalist named Chen Qiushi disappeared in February.